Passions of a Wicked Earl is the first installment in Lorraine Heath's "London's Greatest Lovers" trilogy. Despite a trope I actually like quite a bit, this story has some major problems.
First, the setup. Morgan Lyons, the Earl of Westcliff is married to Claire who was betrothed to him when she was a baby … possibly before. He's eight years older than she is and when they married she was barely 17. Terrified of him, she turned to his younger brother for comfort. Said younger brother being part scamp, part dunderhead, comes up with a brilliant plan to help her avoid the wedding night she's so afraid of. He'll just let his older brother find her in his
arms in her
bedroom. Brilliant plan.
It works about as well as you'd expect. Cut to three years after she's been banished to the country and he's been living it up in London without her. No consummation of their marriage, no contact between them, total distance.
That's the trope I like. The angry husband banishes the wife and she makes the best of it, turning his revenge/punishment on it's head. But it's not quite like that here. See, she and Westcliff come back together because she needs him to help her give her younger sister a season. And, on top of that, she wants him back
Now Westcliff hasn't been the least bit faithful to her in all these years and she knows it. There's always some kindly friend who wants to share. So she's been seriously humiliated as well as isolated all this time. He's got a steady mistress that everyone knows about and she's not the only one he's been with since dumping his wife.
Still, Claire does manage to give him fits which is nice, but her TSTL behavior on their wedding day (not to mention a few other choice moments) continues to lurk in the back of the mind as well as Westcliff's continued association (for the most part non-sexual) with his mistress. Well, the mistress part is not in the back of the mind, it's front and center as an integral part of the story.
Ultimately, it didn't completely work for me. It's a solid 3 star because it's Lorraine Heath and even her duds are usually worth 3 stars, but it definitely could have been better. Better setup, better arc, better conclusion. Meh.